Patriots advance to third round for first time since 1998
FRANKLIN – Page’s defense made plenty of stops against visiting Nolensville Friday evening, but it was one they didn’t think they’d have to make that sent the Patriots to the Class 5A quarterfinals.
Nolensville managed to rally from a 17-0 deficit to get one last-gasp attempt on offense, but Casen Walker knocked a Coby Walton pass intended for Chance Fitzgerald to preserve Page’s 20-15 in a finish that had quite a bit of confusion on both sides.
The Patriots (11-1) were attempting to run the clock out with Nolensville out of timeouts, but a holding penalty set them back to first-and-25 with just more than two minutes remaining. Three plays netted no yards, so with fourth down looming and a seven-point lead, Page ran the clock down as far as it could before calling a timeout.
The clock stopped with five seconds remaining, however, it ran two seconds too long and officials keeping time on the field showed seven seconds to play. That, apparently, was not communicated to Page’s sideline, however.
“That was, by far, the craziest thing I’ve ever seen or been a part of,” Page quarterback Jake McNamara said. “We purposefully took the safety to run out the clock. The clock showed five seconds – supposedly there were seven. That’s unfortunate, but the defense got it done.”
On the next snap, McNamara ran back out of his own end zone for an intentional safety, thinking the rest of the time would run out. But with officials holding the game clock for two seconds to rectify their previous error, the play only took five seconds to run – leaving two seconds remaining via the on-field clock operator.
After officials cleared the field of Page players and students who all thought the game was over, the Patriots still needed to kickoff following the safety. Nolensville fielded the short squib kick and immediately downed it, leaving one second on the clock. Walton’s pass was then knocked down to finally end the game.
It capped a night where both high-powered offenses were largely stifled by the weather and the opposing defense.
“It was surprising, but we relied on our defense and they did their job,” McNamara said. “Big props to the defense, and the offense started to pick it up in the second half. That’s all we could ask for.”
McNamara and Ethan Cunningham ran for touchdowns in the third quarter, giving Page a 17-0 lead before Nolensville’s offense found life.
Walton hit Eric Harper and Fitzgerald for scores in the fourth quarter to keep the Knights alive, while Samson Johnson ran for 121 yards for Nolensville.
“This group’s played hard all year, they’ve given great effort all year,” Nolensville head coach Paul Derrick said. “That’s never been an issue with this group. They play hard and they want to win. They finally started to believe in themselves these past few weeks. We came over and really believed we were going to win the football game.”
Things went scoreless until Dominicke Quarantello hit a 27-yard field goal with 7:07 left in the first half to give Page a 3-0 lead it took into halftime. Quarantello hit a 25-yarder in the fourth quarter as well.
McNamara went 19-of-37 for 167 yards and an interception, while Cunningham ran for 98 yards to lead the Patriots.
Page travels to Green Hill for its quarterfinal game next week.
“It’s great – the first time in 22 years that Page is moving on to the third round,” McNamara said. “We can celebrate for a little, but we’ve got to go back to work Monday because we’ve got a big game on the road next week.”
Page last reached the quarterfinals in 1998, defeating McNairy Central before falling in the semifinals to Melrose.